LSU Players Give Their All In Almost Upsetting Kentucky


Tigers Have No Plan Or Direction At End Of Game

By John Ventola

Home standing LSU played No. 1 Kentucky down to the final shot Tuesday night in a matchup reminiscent of legendary battles between the two schools. Keith Hornsby’s fall-away three pointer in the final seconds hit the backboard and glanced off the left side of the rim before being tapped out in a mid-lane scramble to end the 71-69 game, and preserve the Wildcats’ perfect season.

Playing off the emotion and intensity supplied by a record crowd in the PMAC, (the

LSU Alex

Deaf Dome Lives Up To Nickname

facility lived up to its nickname, The Deaf Dome), LSU jumped out to a quick 14-6 lead and were not headed until a couple of minutes remained in the half. Coach John Calipari’s deep squad used ten players, nine who scored, to gradually wear down the Tigers, and take a 32-30 lead on the way to a 38-34 halftime margin.

Jarell Martin and Jordan Mickey went toe to toe with Calipari’s new batch of Parade All-Americans as their scoring, rebounding, and all-around hustle almost handed the 24-0 Cats their first taste of defeat. It is the second best start in the history of the storied program, and moves this squad one win from matching the 25-0 start of the 1966 Adolph Rupp team.

Knowing that LSU lacks depth, Calipari used his bench wisely to keep the pressure on the Tigers. The Wildcats broke free on three run-out baskets when the Tiger defense failed to get back and in position fast enough. Once the Wildcats took the intermission lead and regrouped, the opening minutes of the second half seemed to indicate that they had taken LSU’s best punch, and were going to pull away from the weary Tigers.

While Kentucky used outside first half shooting by Devin Booker and Aaron Harrison for most of their offensive production, Willie Cauley-Stein and Karl Anthony Towns began


Four Big Men Battled All Game

to attack the rim early, and often, in the second half. Stein had six dunks during the game while scoring fifteen points, and he and Towns seemed to contest almost every late LSU shot.

With the Wildcats seemingly in control after a short ten point burst early in the second half, Towns was called for a technical when he hung on the rim while attempting a dunk. Hornsby made only one of two charity throws, but the call ignited the Tigers, who went on a 16-0 run to take a six-point margin over the Wildcats, 66-60, with seven and a half minutes remaining.

LSU led 69-66 with four minutes remaining, but became tentative on their next two possessions. The first resulted in an intercepted pass under the basket, and the second ended with a late, wild three point attempt by Hornsby from the right corner.

After a Kentucky missed shot while trailing 69-68, officials had to gather to determine how much time to put on the shot clock on their repossession and sent both teams to their respective benches. Calipari used the break in play to diagram a set play. Towns


Coaching: Calipari Draws One Up While Jones Does Not

positioned himself on the low block, took a pass, pivoted and made an uncontested across the lane jump hook shot when no one rotated over to defend him. It put the Wildcats up one with 1:24 left, and put the pressure squarely on Coach Johnny Jones to draw up something to bring his Tigers out of their scoring slump. One free throw and a questionable goal tending call on Kentucky were responsible for the only three points scored by LSU in the last seven minutes, and the Tigers failed to swish the net in any manner over the final four minutes.

No matter how much effort your players give you, a coach has to be able to come up with a play, a ball screen, pick and roll, a back door play, or some kind of strategy that has not been seen by the opposition to free a player up for an open shot. After Towns made his shot per Calipari’s diagram, the Tigers came down court and aimlessly passed the ball around at the top of the key. Just when it appeared they were going to get into something and five seconds remained on the shot clock (56.5 on time clock), Jones jumped off the bench to call a time out. After a timeout, basketball fans generally expect something solid strategy wise. Martin and Mickey were the main producers throughout the night for LSU’s offense, why not draw up something for one of them down low? Martin had 21 points and 11 rebounds, and Mickey had 16 points. They each played well until the last minutes.

Instead, guard Josh Gray hesitated after receiving the inbounds pass (after the timeout), dribbled into the middle of the lane to face three of the Cats’ taller players, and failed to get a shot off in time. Gray appeared intent on driving the lane and never looked for another Tiger.

After a Kentucky miss, Towns came up with a big rebound and passed out to Booker who was fouled with 14.8 seconds remaining. Booker made the first of the one and one, missed the second, and the Tigers rushed down court, hurriedly hitting Hornsby in the left corner to try a game-winning three. Hornsby went up, and when he was contested by Harrison, he threw the ball backwards to Tim Quarterman. The ball went out of bounds to the Tigers with 6.6 seconds left and after the final time out, Hornsby popped out to the left wing to make his attempt at a hero-making three pointer. Jones said after the game that Jalyn Patterson was initially supposed to pass in to Martin behind a back screen on the baseline, but Martin was blocked by Cauley-Stein and Towns on that maneuver.

The crunch time breakdowns and ineptness were upsetting because the players left everything out on the court. Martin, Mickey, Hornsby, and Quarterman played much of the game, and put forth maximum effort against the best team in college basketball.


Tigers Need To Find Consistency

They deserved better from their leader.

Sadly, it reminded me of two TV games played while Dale Brown was the LSU coach. In the first, the Tigers were playing Georgetown and were losing by one point when Brown called a time out. Not giving anything specific, just the vibe everything was going to be OK, and that he wanted any four of the five players on the floor to shoot, he instructed center Jose Vargas not to shoot for any reason. Well, Hoya coach John Thompson forced Vargas to receive the ball, and, you can guess it. Vargas shot the ball, and missed. Georgetown won by one point. The other game was the 1987 NCAA final eight game versus Indiana. LSU took it to the favored Hoosiers the whole game, but wilted down the stretch. Coach Bobby Knight said after the game he was a little worried, but then looked at the coach on the other bench, and knew his team would win. Freshman Fess Irvin missed a late one and one, and Indiana went to the Final Four.

Those disappointments were somewhat cancelled out by the Final Four appearances of 1981 and 1986, but the fact that a team that had Chris Jackson, Stanley Roberts, Shaquille O’Neal and some talented support players did not make it, shows how Brown was lacking in actual basketball coaching talent. A recruiter, yes; a motivator, positively. And a talker, you bet!

He pulled some great upsets, probably the best being a game similar to the one the Tigers played Tuesday night. It was February, 1978, and No. 1 Kentucky rolled into Baton Rouge. His Tigers upset the Wildcats 95-94 in overtime, as each LSU starter fouled out of the game. Kentucky, led by New Orleanian Rick Robey and Jack Givens went on to win the national championship.

Jones is a Brown disciple. He played on that 1981 team as a freshman point guard, was an assistant under Brown for years. He is an adequate coach, and he has shown he


Jones’ Coaching Has To Match His Recruiting

can recruit. The team looked motivated Tuesday, but therein lies a problem. Where was the motivation to best weaker SEC teams such as Missouri, Mississippi State, and Auburn? The Tigers’ loss Tuesday drops them to 17-7 on the season and 6-5 in the conference. They were impressive in wins against West Virginia, Georgia, Florida, Ole Miss, and Texas Tech, but their inconsistency shows something is lacking on the Tigers bench.

I personally did not like the Jones hire. LSU deserves to have an acknowledged top-level coach and strategist that can do all things, recruit, motivate, and coach. Jones has shown he can recruit (two outstanding freshmen Benny Simmons and Antonio Blakeney are signed). He has failed to motivate consistently and get players ready for every game. His coaching has been sporadic, losing almost every game when it comes down to X’s and O’s.

If Martin, Mickey, and Hornsby all come back to join Simmons and Blakeney next year, I will be very interested to see what Jones can do with more pieces to the puzzle. I remain hopeful that Jones is the guy, but he has to show some additional magic with the clipboard, and more bench presence. LSU, its players, and its fans, deserve it.

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